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Jin Young Ko became only the second player in history to win on her LPGA Tour debut after completing a wire-to-wire victory at the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open.
The 22-year-old, who earned her full card after winning the KEB Hana Bank Championship in October last year, celebrated her first start as an LPGA Tour member with a three-shot triumph over Hyejin Choi at the Kooyonga Golf Club in Adelaide.
Women’s Australian Open
Ko topped the leaderboard after her opening 65, and she would stay out in front for the remainder of the tournament, closing with a composed 69 for a winning score of 14 under par.
The South Korean is the first rookie to win her first LPGA Tour event as a full member since Beverley Hanson in 1951, and Ko now hopes to emulate her compatriot Sung-hyun Park and be crowned Rookie of the year at the end of the season.
“I thought I could do it but I felt I had to play my game and enjoy the game,” said Ko. “My goal this week was firstly to make the cut and second to enjoy the game. But I won this week so I don’t know what that might mean. My goal is Rookie of the Year.”
Ko’s lead was whittled down to a single shot when Choi carded four birdies over the front nine while the leader bogeyed the third and seventh having birdied the opening two holes.
But Ko made a crucial birdie at the ninth to steady her nerves, and she maintained her lead with a faultless inward half, picking up further shots at 13 and 17 as Choi managed only one further birdie at the 16th.
Hannah Green gave the home fans plenty to cheer as she fired a 69 to clinch outright third on 10 under, finishing a shot ahead of her fellow Australian Katherine Kirk with world No 16 Minjee Lee earning a tie for fifth, seven shots adrift of Ko.
England’s Charley Hull completed a fine recovery from her opening 74, claiming a top-10 finish with a four-birdie 69 with her bogey at the 15th being her only dropped shot over the final three rounds.
Hull closed on six under, with compatriot and Solheim Cup team-mate Georgia Hall a shot further back after returning a flawless five-birdie 67.